Friday, August 13, 2010

Organized Mom Series: Part 2 ~ Schedules

Please keep in mind my heart about this. I want to help - not burden or frustrate. This is not about condemning anyone. Just about helping organize life in a way that works for me ... and can hopefully help someone else!

Does the word "schedule" make you feel secure and confident ... or frustrated and restricted?

I'm sure you can guess where I fall. I've admited, I like systems and routines. I think schedules fit into that. But, schedules only work if they work for you! I look at schedules as a guideline. A routine. A direction to head in. Even a goal to shoot for (in terms of what can be accomplished in a day). I always build in flexibility and "down time." I don't always get everything accomplished, but I get far more done than when I don't have a routine to follow! 

My theory on schedules is a bit like Dave Ramsey's theory on budgets. He says to budget every penny so that you are telling your money where to go. Even without a budget, your money still gets spent. The question is, was it spent wisely? The same can be said of the hours in our days. If we don't "budget" (or schedule) our time, it will still get spent. But, was it spent wisely? Ouch. Even with schedules, I still spend far too much time unwisely!

As moms, we generally have a lot to accomplish. For me, managing a home, raising four children, homeschooling and commitments outside our home can only get accomplished with a schedule. Without one, I'm frustrated and constantly feeling like I can never get it all done.

Sometimes those feelings creep up because I'm doing more than God intends for me. I would encourage you to pray about the priorities God has for you. There are SO many things - many very GOOD things - that our days get filled with. But, if they aren't the things God intends, we will always be frustrated. If this is an area you struggle in, I would encourage you to spend some time working on a mission statement. Being a mom is a position of leadership and as such, we need direction.  I'm a huge believer in being intentional in our roles!  I don't want to spend a lot of time on this, because it could be a post all its own, and there are others who have written about the benefits of having a mission statement and how to write one. If you are interested, go here and here (family mission statement).

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."  Proverbs 19:21

Once you have a handle on what your priorities are, its easy to make a list of all that needs to be accomplished in a week. For my days to be productive, I need things planned out, so that when I've finished one thing, I can move on to the next without getting distracted!!! That doesn't mean I don't stop and play with my kids or read them a book - it just means I don't get distracted by the four gazillion other things that need to be done around here. The work will never be done. So, rather than focusing on trying to do everything, we need to focus on being as productive as we can today.

Since I quite like schedules, I have several! You schedule-haters probably see that as a wee bit OCD, don't you? ;) For me schedules are a way to squeeze more time out of my day, to be more productive than when I try the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach. I use one schedule for the week, one for the kids' chores and several that revolve around our homeschool.

I'm going to break them down - for those of you who want more detail (Lord, help you!) :)

If I was a fancy blogger, I would download my schedules, but alas, fancy is not a word that describes me in any area of my life, so you'll just have to work with a description. Lucky you :)

My weekly schedule is basically the routine for the kids and me. It is broken down into days: Mon - Fri. I don't include Sat or Sun because those days tend to be less ... {ahem} ... scheduled - or at the very least differently scheduled week to week. I don't change this schedule based on things that comes up - it is just our normal routine for ordinary weeks.  Basically, it keeps me focused on the priorities!

I use an Excel spreadsheet that lists my entire day in time blocks. Notice I didn't say minutes or even hours. Its in chunks, because days with kids rarely go as "scheduled." IthinkyouknowwhatImean. If you schedule every minute, you'll end up with a schedule that's blown by 8am ... and frustrated, blaming it on the schedule when you should, in fact, be blaming the schedulER. Did I just say that out loud? 

My time blocks change as seasons of life change. I list my morning routine (which I shared in Part 1) - but in my 7-8:30am slot, I list not only making breakfast, prepping food for the day and fixing my girls' hair but also my chores for the day. (I'm pretty sure hair fixing will not be listed on boy-mom schedules - consider yourselves 15-20 minutes ahead of us multiple-long-haired-girl moms ;) )

To determine my chores, I figure out what needs to be done each week. Then decide what can be done by children. Cause I'm a big believer in child labor like that. :) I break the remaining things down, making sure to take into consideration what else is going on that day. So, for example, I just finished creating my weekly schedule for the fall. Mondays and Tuesdays are going to be busier than other days with outside activities, so I scheduled fewer chores for those days. 

I schedule in school time and break it down by which kiddo I'm working with one-on-one, even though I have a more detailed school schedule separate from this. The other thing I do (which probably does inch into the OCD catagory) is color code my kids. This started as the easiest way to avoid fights over who-got-what-cup in the toddler years. Jordan has always loved green and Jake, blue. Those became "their" colors years ago. Jadyn has adopted pink (which is really quite fitting for her) and Jace pretty much gets whatever is left over - usually orange or red. Since he's not in my schedule, I haven't nailed down a color for him yet :) Jordan's activities are highlighted in green, Jake's in blue, etc. I use this on their chore lists as well. Everyone in our family can glance at lists and know immediately who has what. That might be over the top for some of you, and that's ok. You can still be organized without color coding your children (even if I don't see how) :)

Speaking of children, let's chat about their schedules.

My oldest 3 each have a "Morning Routine and chore list" hanging on their wall in their rooms. I have the 'master' copy (so to speak) of the chore list hanging on the inside of our pantry door (so I alwasy know what they are supposed to do). For their "morning routine" - they each: Get dressed, make bed, brush teeth and clean room. 

Then, they each have chores to do. Everyone puts their own clothes away and helps fold laundry. Yes, I've had to give up the days of perfectly folded (and neatly placed in drawers) laundry. But, I try to remember that one day there won't be any little kid clothes to fold neatly and I'll be sad about it. At least that's what I hear. In the meantime, I just avoid looking in their drawers. :)

They also take turns being the Kitchen Helper (or 'Sous Chef' as Jakey likes to refer to himself ). This basically means that they are my helper in the kitchen for the day - helping prepare meals, loading/unloading the dishwasher, setting & clearing the table, etc. I find it simpler than trying to schedule turns for all those things individually & it provides them a chance to learn some kitchen/cooking skills. Each one of them has 2 days/week - except Jadyn who has 3 (because she has Saturday and Sunday, which tend to be less-time-in-the-kitchen days).

As for their chores: sweeping, cleaning toilets & sinks (I do tubs & mirrors), dusting and cleaning glass tables, watering plants, trash, cleaning out the car, cleaning up the backyard, etc. These are divided up among them, so none of them have all that many to do. I try really hard to give them chores they don't totally mind. For example, Jake doesn't prefer dusting and the girls actually enjoy it, so I try to balance things out like that. And, we switch them around as necessary and as abilities warrant. Jace has no "official" chores yet - but he's a rockstar when it comes to cleaning his room!! Probably because he's number 4 and wants to be like the big kids. 
My schedule includes time to plan and prep school stuff, quiet time for everyone and free time. All necessities! :) Being a homeschool mom, one thing that is hard to come by is time without children in your face (or on your leg) ... so during Jace's naps, the other kids have quiet time in their rooms. They can play quietly, rest, read - I don't really care. As long as I don't hear or see them :)

School schedules: I shared about a lot of our school stuff in this post. As for scheduling, I have a binder! {*shock*}  I have a wish list and these dividers: Daily Plans, Weekly Plans, Monthly Plans, Annual Plans, Curriculum.

Seems like overkill, I know. But, it gives me a place to jot down ideas - whether its a unit study or lapbook idea, a curriculum I want to research, goals, needs, etc. Having everything in one place keeps things streamlined when it comes to planning. The main sections I use on a regular basis are Daily Plans & Weekly Plans. In my daily plans, I have a list of all the subjects I want each of the kids to cover on each day of the week. This is the routine of schoolwork, not a list that changes daily. I also have a schedule for Jordan that has her NACD program broken down into time chunks.

In my Weekly Plans, I have a copy of my weekly schedule along with a master copy of our weekly lesson planning sheet. So, when its time for me to work 1:1 with one of the kids, I can look at my planning sheet to see what I should be doing with them. It sounds more complicated that it really is. Basically I created a sheet that lists the subjects to cover with each of the kids, then each week, I write in the page #s or lesson #s to complete. This list also includes sections where I write in prep work that is required for the week and library books we'll need. That way, when we start the week, we (ideally!) have everything we need!

For Monthly Plans, I just have a calendar with extra space to write.  I fill in days-off from school and list priorities and goals for the month.  Because things are always changing, this keeps me focused on their individual needs and things that need extra focus.  I also jot down ideas for unit studies, lapbooks and books to read that I think of.
Annual Plans has my calendar for the year with our plan for school days.  Scheduled breaks for holidays, etc are filled in. 
The Curriculum section is where I jot down ideas I want to look into for the next year.
None of the sections are more than a page or two, but it still gives me a place to keep all of our plans and ideas together.
I think that covers the schedules we keep.  Another very long post but I hope it helps!


Anonymous said...

Awesome Angela!!! Great ideas. I wanted to mention an idea that I just figured out. I put my chores and my kids chores on my computer's calendar. I think it's microsoft works. can create a calendar with recurring events for each person (color coded too!) and you can view those calendars individually or any combination of calendars. For example...I can view only Sophie's or I can view Sophie's and Lilli's together. I can view them all together as well. I can print them daily, weekly, or monthly. I can print them all combined...or all together. I give each child an area per week to be in charge of keeping clean. For example I have a recurring event of Sophie being in charge of the mudroom area every other week. She's in charge of making sure things stay tidy...and if that means she gets to remind someone to put their shoes away, she's allowed to do that. And then Lilli has it on the opposite weeks. Anyway...just another idea for those of us who want to do it once and never look back. :O) I have it recurring for 10 years! Really, I do!! Now to get the system rolling. We haven't actually started it yet. I'm still using the nagging and yelling system. It's not working for me though, so I'm moving on to a schedule. ;O)

One other idea for daily responsibilities such as bed making, teeth brushing... I use a craft stick system. I have a friend in MN that shared this idea with me. Write one chore on each stick and place them in a "to do" container. When they do that chore they move the stick to the "done" container. I used plastic peanut butter jars and decorated them with scrapbooking stuff.


Angela @ The Sustala (7-1=) Six said...

THANK YOU, Marcie!! Those are great ideas and I love that you shared them!! I don't know why I don't better utilize technology! :)
I actually used the craft stick idea with Jordan's NACD program a few years back - I wrote individual activities on the sticks and we'd pull them out throughout the day. Worked great! I'm thinking that would work for school work/activities as well!
Thanks again, for sharing!

Stacey Webster said...

this will come in handy in the near future. :)

Exum Family said...

You are so wise! I cannot tell you how excited I am to be reading this blog at this exact season in my life. It would not have hit my heart a couple of months ago like it is hitting it right now. Thank you! There are parts of your posts that make me want to cry with joy because I feel like someone else understands me. Thank you for reminding me to seek God's will when organizing my home. Oops! I haven't done that. And I'm one of those who feels like I'm never getting anything done...even though I am...because I don't have a schedule. I totally subscribe to managing your time like your money - it goes a lot further that way - but I have been unsuccessful in doing it so far. There is one thing that you said that really pointed the finger at my heart - pray about the priorities that God has for me and don't do more than HE intends for me. Stop comparing myself to others and compare myself to Him. Wow! That was amazing advice!! Thank you!